Mercer County, WV

Tactics Used

Auto Seizure
Buyer Arrests
Community Service
Employment Loss
Identity Disclosure
IT Based Tactics
John School
License Suspension
Neighborhood Action
Public Education
Reverse Stings
SOAP Orders
Web Stings

Mercer County is located on the southwestern border of  West Virginia. The population is approximately 60,000, its county seat is Princeton (population approximately 6,000), and its larger towns include Bluefield (11,000) and Beckley (20,000). Prostitution and sex trafficking activity has been documented in these cities and throughout other smaller towns and unincorporated areas within the county. Girls as young as 15 have been known to engage in prostitution in the city and, by definition, are sex trafficking victims. In one case, a man killed his wife because she refused to stop working in prostitution. Bluefield  has at least one case of child sexual exploitation and forced prostitution of a minor: In 2006, a Bluefield resident contacted a young woman online and “convinced her to travel to Bluefield for the purpose of prostitution.” He later transported the girl to Miami where he “‘continued to direct her to engage in prostitution” until he was arrested by the FBI and the Miami Minor Vice Squad.”

In an effort to reduce commercial sex sales in the area, the Mercer County Sheriff’s Department and area Police Departments have conducted street-level and web-based reverse stings that target the underlying demand for prostitution. These sex buyer stings have used both civilian informants and undercover female officers as decoys. Following their arrests, sex buyers’ names, ages, and hometowns are reported in the local news. Some area police departments have also attempted public education, using the news media to talk to men about the health risks taken by engaging in buying sex.

Key Partners


Key Sources

Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:

Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:

Background on Prostitution in the Area:

  • “Woman Faces Felony Solicitation Charge”, Beckley Register-Herald, February 9 2008.
  • “Police: Internet Ad Leads to Arrest in Prostitution Sting”, Beckley Register-Herald, August 26 2008.
  • “Woman Busted after Allegedly Posting Online Sex Ad”, Fairmont West Virginia Times, August 27 2008.
  • “Woman Arrested after Online Sex Ad, Police Say”, Charleston Gazette, August 28 2008.
  • “Two Arrested on Prostitution Charges”, Beckley Register-Herald, August 16 2013.
State West Virginia
Type County
Population 59664
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